For Australian surfers, the wait is finally over. Surf Lakes opened their first wave pool on the 22nd October 2018 in Yeppoon, Queensland. Amidst all the fanfare and hype, initial perceptions from the global surf community are that, the wave in spite of having a good shape to it, doesn’t offer a very long ride. In comparison to the size and endlessness of Kelly Slater’s Surf Ranch, it plays second fiddle.
In light of this, it’s important to note two things. Firstly, because the launch of the pool had been rather rushed, the engineers were reticent to crank the waves up to the sizes that they have the potential to reach. This is because there are a lot of moving parts, and doing this could have risked breaking the machinery altogether.
Secondly, the Yeppoon wave pool was always planned to be a prototype in order to prove the concept down in Oz. As a result it was constructed on the smallest budget possible in order to achieve a minimum viable product.
For example, this meant that for the concrete bottom they shed 2/3 of the costs and ended up laying down a wafer thin concrete bottom which began to crack when the surfers walked on it.
On the upside it looks like the concept has been proven, and with Mark Ochiluppo as the main brand ambassador there is no reason why it shouldn’t become a commercial success.
Moreover, the commercials of this wave pool look impressive, and with the large number of surfers that Australia has, Surf Lakes should be able to make it a profitable venture and run all year round unlike Surf Snowdonia.
The main reason for this is the unique structure of the wave pool being a complete circle. This allows for five different waves to be surfed simultaneously. This bit of proprietary “5 Waves” technology Surf Lakes claim the pool will be able to generate 2,400 per hour. That seems a little high to us.
A giant mechanical plunger sits in the middle of the pool and drops down with great ferocity to create a 360 degree wave which essentially breaks up into 5 separate waves. Surfers of varying abilities are able to ride these 5 very different waves.
One of the waves starts with a 2-3 metre barrel section opening up to area conducive to a fe cut backs. It finally finishes with a air section. This wave is aptly named “Occy’s Peak”.
Another wave is a “slab”. Another is a “beach break”. There is also a “point break” and some great beginner waves that are ideal for longboards and larger volume surfboards.
The water is warm, and so no wetsuit is needed. If the pool stays open during the winter a wetsuit will then most likely be needed, unless they choose to heat the water.
This “5 Waves” model gives Surf Lakes a huge commercial advantage, as they can operate on a multiple of 5 rather than 2 when working out their daily revenues. (most other wave pools around the world only have the capacity for 2 surfers on each wave at any point in time).
The main challenge will be to get their pricing right to make it viable for both first timers as well as your seasoned surfers to come and ride the wave.
With the Kelly Slater Surf Ranch charging $55,000 per day and with BSR closing down their pool in Texas due a surfer dying from a brain eating amoeba, there is little competition at present and a whole raft of opportunity.